The NFC is wide open this season, and the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers are right in the thick of contention.
Whilst there is a gulf in class between the good and bad teams in the conference this season, the NFC is still wide open at the top. Could we be about to relive NFL history?
The 49ers and Cowboys share 10 Super Bowls between them, with five each.
San Francisco were the team of the 1980s, with four of their five titles coming between 1982 and 1990. Dallas dominated the 90s with three Super Bowls in four seasons.
This era also saw a historic rivalry take place between both teams. Not only did they also meet in the NFC Championship game twice in the early 1970s, they also met four times at the same stage between 1980 and 1995.
As historic rivalries often do, this era saw one of the most famous NFL moments. Fans of the sport during the era will never forget the infamous 1981 NFC Championship game and ‘The Catch’, Joe Montana throwing to Dwight Clark late in the fourth quarter.
However, for years, these teams never met in the big moments. Neither team has won a Super Bowl in the 21st century, with San Francisco 0-2 in Super Bowls post-2000. Dallas have not even made it to the NFC Championship since they won it all during the 1995 season. They have since gone 4-10 in the postseason.
Before last season, these teams had not met in the playoffs since January 15th 1995. Last season’s game was a taster of what is to come. Whilst they had not met in years in the postseason, the drama never left this rivalry. A strange play call from Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy saw them run a quarterback draw with just seconds left and no timeouts. This led to a frantic rush to spike to ball from Dak Prescott ultimately fail. We could be set for another historic matchup.
And there is no reason why not. When it comes to their offenses, San Francisco and Dallas are ninth and 10th respectively for total yards per game, and both feature in the top 10 for both rushing yards and total points per game. With defenses that are both in the top five for total yards allowed per game, these two should create an explosive encounter.
As it stands, at the time of writing, the 49ers would occupy the third seed in the NFC, with a current 9-4 record whereas the Cowboys would take the fifth seed spot despite having the joint second-most wins in the conference (10-3). This is due to their division rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, having a 12-1 record as it stands.
There is a lot of belief that the 10-3 Minnesota Vikings are a team that has a better record than they should, but they are still a team with double-digit wins before the start of Week 15. This means that they, the Cowboys, Eagles and 49ers are the best teams in the conference.
Should the 49ers, Vikings and Cowboys all win in the Wildcard Round in the currently projected matchups, this would see the Vikings host the Niners and the Eagles host the Cowboys off the back of a playoff bye.
Provided the Cowboys and 49ers both win, then once again these two teams would meet in the NFC Championship game. Both teams already lead the NFL for most NFC Championship appearances, and back-to-back seasons with these teams meeting could reload one of the game’s greatest rivalries.